Glass vs. OLD Plastic Fermenters

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dmtaylor's picture
Glass vs. OLD Plastic Fermenters

Don't credit me for coming up with this one, although I helped, indirectly... Braufessor from the NB forum thought it might be a good idea to test out the old glass vs. plastic fermenter thing. And I agree, with the following design:

This experiment will test flavor differences in the final beer using old buckets that have been used as fermenters more than 10 times, versus glass carboys of any age. The primary purpose of the experiment is to test old buckets to see if they adversely affect flavor.

This has got to be a group experiment, from a lot of different homebrewers who have used a bucket fermenter more than 10 times. Newer buckets need not apply. Old BetterBottles used more than 10 times may also be tested but will fall in a smaller subsection of the results, since buckets have been used since Denny was a kid, but BetterBottles, not so much.

Each homebrewer will split fermentation of a newly brewed batch of any style between their old bucket (or BetterBottle) and a glass carboy. Ferment as normal, prime and bottle, and finally taste.

Each homebrewer must also report up front how old the plastic fermenter is, approximately how many batches they used it for (a wild guess is okay), how they store it (e.g., dry or in sanitizer), how they clean it, how they sanitize it, what's the longest fermentation they've ever done, did they ever brew a sour batch in it, etc.

For the most objective results, bottles could be submitted to a blind tasting panel of BJCP judges, perhaps even using triangle testing methods to look for flavor differences. Or, it could be done casually in the brewer's home, with results submitted to a central experiment master. Either way the results should be very interesting.

I really don't know what to expect out of the results. On the NB forum, I was arguing that old plastic can royally mess with beer quality, and I have dumped many batches because of it. Another guy says no way, I must be ruining my buckets, he's used buckets for a million years and never had any problems. I think in some ways we are both right... but of course I tend to think I am a little *more* right. :) That's why I want to test everyone's old bucket that they've been using for a couple years to see if it will shed any light on how quickly, on average, a bucket goes to crap, or whether good sanitation practices, good cleaning methods, storage methods, unlaziness, etc. can prevent contamination in the long term.

I would volunteer but I am 90

I would volunteer but I am 90% sure that all my old buckets are now hopelessly infected with bugs. I just got two new buckets for dedicating to non-sour brews.

"Remember, kids, the Only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down." - A. Savage

denny's picture
I may try that on my next

I may try that on my next batch, Dave. I still have a bunch of carboys around, as well as buckets that have been used a lot more than 10 times. My only issue would be to rig something up for temp control so I could ferment the 2 batches at the same temps.

Life begins at 60....1.060, that is!

One thing I've always

One thing I've always wondered is whether hops carry over in a bucket compared to glass. Even after a full-strength hot PBW soak my buckets smell like hops. I've always wondered if you'd be able to pick up a detectable amount of hops from a bucket on a lightly-hopped beer.

In general, I think the best type of beer to really test this out would be something really light and clean like a Helles or a Cream Ale.

Oh man I really wish I hadn't

Oh man I really wish I hadn't relegated all of my old buckets to grain storage duty years ago. This sounds like a good experiment. I might suggest doing something sort of delicate like a kolsch where any carrryover flavors might come through more prominently.